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Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

Cocky Ignorance about the world around us will eventually ruin us

When I was in the U.S. Army in the 1960's, I taught English to a dozen high school girls from Ewah High School, in Seoul, Korea. My tutoring was quite basic. One night I said, " I live in Knoxville, Tennessee ". One little Korean teen said shyly, " Ah, Knoxville, Tennes...
When I was in the U.S. Army in the 1960's, I taught English to a dozen high school girls from Ewah High School, in Seoul, Korea. My tutoring was quite basic. One night I said, " I live in Knoxville, Tennessee ". One little Korean teen said shyly, " Ah, Knoxville, Tennessee: Headquarters of Tennessee Valley Authority ". I was bowled over with the students' knowledge of the geography of the United States. Looking back, I realize that this little episode is perhaps a metaphor for the sorry state of American education. We Americans are almost completely ignorant about the world around us, even of our own country. And our ignorance of our own, illustrious American history, is almost as deplorable. We have become a nation of people who don't seem to care what is going on in the world. And that, eventually, is going to do us in. Neil Postman illustrates our desire for mindless television viewing by giving numerous examples of the fluff and piffle that masquerades as
"news". Our Founding Fathers warned the American people that being a citizen requires full participation in the affairs of our nation, and subscribed to an informed citizenship. Thomas Jefferson said, " Dissent is the highest form of patriotism ". He would weep if he saw the cocksure ignorance of most Americans. "What Americans don't know will kill them", said Fred Friendly. one of television's major figures, many years ago. When we have a televison show that is called, " Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?", you know you are in deep trouble. How many Americans see the sad irony of this abomination? Postman was a prophet, and I am afraid he is absolutely correct that we are Amusing Ourselves To Death.

posted by Molly2 on November 21, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

$nookbook > $realbook

why is the nookbook $4 more without printing & shipping fees?

posted by RinebergReviewer on April 23, 2011

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  • Posted November 21, 2009

    Cocky Ignorance about the world around us will eventually ruin us

    When I was in the U.S. Army in the 1960's, I taught English to a dozen high school girls from Ewah High School, in Seoul, Korea. My tutoring was quite basic. One night I said, " I live in Knoxville, Tennessee ". One little Korean teen said shyly, " Ah, Knoxville, Tennessee: Headquarters of Tennessee Valley Authority ". I was bowled over with the students' knowledge of the geography of the United States. Looking back, I realize that this little episode is perhaps a metaphor for the sorry state of American education. We Americans are almost completely ignorant about the world around us, even of our own country. And our ignorance of our own, illustrious American history, is almost as deplorable. We have become a nation of people who don't seem to care what is going on in the world. And that, eventually, is going to do us in. Neil Postman illustrates our desire for mindless television viewing by giving numerous examples of the fluff and piffle that masquerades as
    "news". Our Founding Fathers warned the American people that being a citizen requires full participation in the affairs of our nation, and subscribed to an informed citizenship. Thomas Jefferson said, " Dissent is the highest form of patriotism ". He would weep if he saw the cocksure ignorance of most Americans. "What Americans don't know will kill them", said Fred Friendly. one of television's major figures, many years ago. When we have a televison show that is called, " Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?", you know you are in deep trouble. How many Americans see the sad irony of this abomination? Postman was a prophet, and I am afraid he is absolutely correct that we are Amusing Ourselves To Death.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 28, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A review of Amusing Ourselves to Death, By Neil Postman

    Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman, is a book about social content. The message of the book is that our culture has moved past being a print based culture and is now a culture that is revolved around television.
    The start of our cultural shift can be traced back to the nineteenth century, by means of when the telegraph was invented by Samuel Morse. This was one of the most important developments in communication at that time because for the first time in the history of man communication could move faster than man. With this came a change in media, because after the telegraph news could travel from one end of the country to another instantaneously.
    In the end of part one of the book, Postman states that this made a "language of headlines" and that from these spawned the phrase "the news of the day". These are still used today on major television news channels where they run the headlines at the bottom of the screen separating them by the company's name. "The news of the day" is the top story of the network is covering in its broadcast. From this kind of broadcasting, we get fragments of the news; this is what Postman calls "Now. This", which Postman says also is signified by a broadcaster saying that he is done covering one story and is about to move onto the next.
    The main focus of the book is on television, what television does for and to our culture. "Television is our cultures principal mode of knowing about itself," Postman says in the first chapter of the second part of the book. What this means is that the shows we watch become a part of us, it becomes the main place where we get information about our community, our country, and I'd make the argument that it is where we go to learn about other cultures too.
    This is true for not only major news channels which I mentioned earlier but for different shows and sitcoms. The Travel Channel, for instance, has many of these kinds of shows that one watches if they would like to learn about the different cultures, shows like Bizarre Foods and No Reservations, where one can not only learn about the culture and foods of somewhere where they will probably never end up going but they are also entertaining to watch.
    The entertaining factor of television is how Postman puts it in the second part of the book as "supra-ideology of all discourse on television." This meaning that even if what you're watching is suppose to be educational it is also entertaining. I strongly agree with this Postman statement because there is no way to turn on the television and not be attempted by the networks to be entertained.
    Postman also mentions that we have news as entertainment, but now we have entertainment as news in the show Entertainment Tonight. It was seen that there was a need for us as a culture to not only be entertained by television but to have a program that is based on what those who entertain us are doing when they are not entertaining.
    In the last chapter, Postman said that television turns everything on it into entertainment packages. In our society today we are so addicted to being entertained, television is an obvious medium that feeds that addiction. We can say that we are learning something from watching a program, like say one that is about Italy, but really we are being entertained by the music, the ruins of an ancient age, the sight of the sun going down on the Mediterranean Sea, and and the tidbits of information that the show is giving us will soon be forgotten.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 3, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Superb and insightful analysis

    Postman's insights into our culture and ways of thinking and communicating are tremendous. This isn't just another "TV is terrible because it's all garbage" tirade. This is an incisive analysis of human epistemology, and how the video culture is changing how - and how well - we think. Having raised six children with no television in the house, I can verify empirically that his observations are correct.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 3, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    The prophetic lens through which I view the news...

    That this book was written at the dawn of the age of 24-hour news (CNN 1 June 1980, we've had them for 29 years) this book is the mental litmus test I use to sift through the minutia of news and views. The Internet (a DARPA project when Neil Postman wrote his treatise) has changed the game: President Obama was probably the first candidate to completely MASTER all forms of this new entertainment, maximizing all social networks: You Tube, Twitter, Face Book, My Space, etc., and sent out a consistent message as well as used all forms of media to raise record campaign contributions. This is how it will be run: elections from now on. You have to be photogenic, you have to dominate all forms of media and you HAVE to be entertaining. I voted for Obama for his talent as a politician and a reprisal for eight years that lacked intellectual depth, but I think it speaks to an almost primitive leaning in ourselves: we tend to vote for the cutest (Sarah Palin), the war heroes (Kerry and McCain... maybe not!), the crusader for the poor (Edwards, before his fall), in other words: one has to have a compelling story as well as qualifications to run and be successful for any political office (unless you're in Iran). It also helps before your campaigns - Obama, Clinton, W, McCain - to have written a book and easily made the NYT best seller's list. I believe Palin's move to not run for reelection in Alaska is following this formula along with her book deal. We'll see in 2012 how successful she is. SOUNDING good at the mike also helps! Lincoln, I'm told, probably would not have made it today: yet another form of entertainment.

    www.reggiegoodwin.com

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2006

    Looks like we'll die laughing

    This is an extraordinarily insightful book, with dead-on if ultimately depressing analyses of just why and how our society has become so dumbed done in the last few decades. But dark though this is, nevertheless knowledge is the beginning of wisdom, and so if enough people heed the warnings in this book, there may yet be a chance to save ourselves ...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2002

    Superb and insightful analysis

    Wonder why people don't seem to think as well as they once did? Mr. Postman may have the answer. Read this, and you may pull together the courage to get rid of your television forever, especially if you're raising children.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2001

    I wish I knew a better one

    Though it is not the only subject covered in this book, it deals exceptionally well with the power of metaphor, and the way we use metaphor to understand what goes on around us. I've as yet found a book that deals with the subject better.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2000

    Simply the best book on political media coverage

    This is truly a classic. I read this in college, as a political science major, and have been lending it out to my friends, my parents' friends.... Now I have to buy myself a new copy because mine is so tattered. And one for a friend for X-mas.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2000

    despite being old it is a AWESOME book

    I was told to read Chapter 6 of this book for an assignment but I found it so interesting that I bought the book and read it all. Mr Postman wrote so well that even though the book was written in the mid-80s, it was very convincing. This is a great book and all should read it. Especially if you are one of those who watch Television.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2000

    Superb but Slightly Outdated

    This is simply a superb book, that is truly a timeless classic and has proven to be prophetic. The sound logic of this book makes it a must for every reader. The only downside is that it is based on data 2 decades old. Thus I also highly recommend Grossman and DeGaetano's recent 'Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill,' which provides a very effective update on the data and research in this vital field, and this new book also addresses violent video games as well as incorporating some valuable military data in

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